Pioneer History in the Park

9/29/2016; Big Bend National Park

Castalon and Cottonwood Campground

Near the Cottonwood Campground is the Castalon Visitor Center and Store.  Nearby are several buildings dating back to the early 1900’s when the area served as a commercial center for trade and supply between nearby farming and ranching operations, both on the Mexican and US sides of the border.  It also served as a military outpost.

This store was called Las Harmonias - a hopeful call for harmony among the many varied peoples who traded there.

Boquillas Del Carmen, Mexico

On the other side of the park, near the Rio Grande Village campground complex, the ties with Mexico are even stronger.  A few days a week, there is a border crossing opened for tourists to travel to Boquillas Mexico – an old mining town that you can see from the US side of the river.  Near Boquillas Canyon lie some of the foundations to an ‘Aerial Tramway’ that spanned the Rio Grande from 1915-1919 transporting zinc, silver, and lead ore from mines in Boquillas to the US where it was then trucked to Marathon, Tx to a rail head. The tramway transported 70 tons of ore per hour across the border.

Boquilas Del Carmen

Ore Bucket

One of 4 of the foundation areas for the first tramway support from the river

Borders are really only marks on a map

As you hike along the Rio Grande, you can’t help but notice that the land across the river is identical to land where you are walking – same geological features, same desert plants, same birds flying back and forth.  Unlike on maps, the ground isn’t a different color.   As you hike, canoes and small boats are beached on the Mexican side of the river; you can see small palapas or shade-shelters nearby with folks making small wire sculptures, bags, and painted hiking staffs; these hand-crafted souvenirs are placed along the most popular hikes with an ‘honor jar’.  I met a gentleman selling souvenirs and offering Mexican Songs for sale as I hiked the Boquillas Canyon.  I remembered enough Spanish to have a short conversation (Hello, how are you; no, I don’t want to buy anything).

1 comment:

  1. Wow! We met some folks in Ajo who told us that, maybe ten fifteen years ago, the Mexican restaurant owners would boat over the Rio Grand to Big Bend in the evening to pick up customers for their evening meals, then row them back to the park after dinner. Great post.


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